( Originally Published 1879 )
IT does no good to get angry. Some sins have a seeming compensation or apology, a present gratification of some sort, but anger has none. A man feels no better for it. It is really a torment, and when the storm of passion has cleared away, it leaves one to see that he has been a fool. And he has made himself a fool in the eyes of others too.
Sinful anger, when it becomes strong, is called wrath; when it makes outrages, it is fury; when it becomes fixed, it is termed hatred; and when it intends to injure any one, it is called malice. All these wicked passions spring from anger. The continuance and frequent fits of anger produce an evil habit in the soul, a propensity to be angry, which oftentimes ends in choler, bitterness, and morosity; when the mind becomes ulcerated, peevish, and querulous, and like a thin, weak plate of iron, receives impressions, and is wounded by the least occurrence.
Anger is such a headstrong and impetuous passion, that the ancients call it a short madness; and indeed there is no difference between an Angry man and a madman while the fit continues, because both are void of reason and blind for that season. It is a disease that, where it prevails, is no less dangerous than deforming to us; it swells the face, it agitates the body, and inflames the blood; and as the evil spirit mentioned in the Gospel threw the possessed into the fire or the water, so it casts us into all kinds of danger.
It too often ruins or subverts whole families, towns, cities, and kingdoms. It is a vice that very few can conceal; and if it does not betray itself by such external signs as paleness of the countenance. and trembling of the limbs, it is more impetuous within, and by gnawing in the heart injures the body and the' mind very much.
No man is obliged to live so free from passion as not to show some resentment; and it is rather stoical stupidity than virtue, to do otherwise. Anger may glance into the breast of a wise man, but rests only in the bosom of fools. Fight hard against a hasty temper. Anger will come, but resist it strongly. A spark may set a house on fire. A fit of passion may give you .cause to mourn all the days of your life. Never revenge an injury. When Socrates found in himself any disposition to anger, he would check it by speaking low, in opposition to the motions of his displeasure. If you are conscious of being in a passion, keep your mouth shut, for words increase it. Many a person has dropped dead in a rage. Fits of anger bring fits of disease. "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad," and the example is a good one for our imitation. If you would demolish , an opponent in argument, first make him as mad as you can. Dr. Fuller used to say that the heat of passion makes our souls to crack, and the devil creeps in at the crevices. Anger is a passion the most criminal and destructive of all the passions; the only one that not only bears the appearance of insanity, but often produces the wildest form of madness. It is difficult, indeed, sometimes to mark the line that distinguishes the bursts of rage from the bursts of phrenzy; so similar are its movements, and too often equally similar are its actions. What crime has not been committed in the paroxysms of anger? Has not the friend murdered his friend? the son massacred his parent ? the creature blasphemed his Creator? When, indeed, the nature of this passion is considered, what crime may it not commit? Is it not the storm of the human mind, which wrecks every better affection—wrecks reason and conscience; and, as a ship driven without helm or compass before the rushing gale, is not the mind borne away, without guide or government, by the tempest of unbounded rage?
A passionate temper renders a man unfit for advice, deprives him of his reason, robs him of all that is either great or noble in his nature; it makes him unfit for conversation, destroys friendship, changes justice into cruelty, and turns all order into confusion. Says Lord Bacon: "An angry man who suppresses his passions, thinks worse than he speaks; and an angry man that will chide, speaks worse than he thinks." A wise man 'lath no more anger than is necessary to show that he can apprehend the first wrong, nor any more revenge than justly to prevent a second. One angry word sometimes raises a storm that time itself cannot allay. There is many a man whose tongue might govern multitudes, if he could only govern his tongue. He is the man of power who controls the storms and tempests of his mind. He that will be angry for anything, will be angry for nothing. As some are often incensed without a cause; so they are apt to continue their anger, lest it should appear to their disgrace to have begun without occasion. If we do not subdue our anger it will subdue us. It is the second word that makes the quarrel. That anger is not warrantable that hath seen two suns. One long anger, and twenty short ones, have no very great difference. Our passions are like the seas, agitable by the winds; and as God hath set bounds to these, so should we to those—so far shalt thou go, and no farther.
Angry and choleric men are as ungrateful and unsociable as thunder and lightning, being in themselves all storm and tempests ; but quiet and easy natures are like fair weather, welcome to all, and acceptable to all men; they gather together what the other disperses, and reconcile all whom the other incenses; as they have the good will and the good wishes of all other men, so they have the full possession of themselves,: have all their own thoughts at peace, and enjoy quiet; and ease in their own fortunes, how strait soever it. may be.
But how with the angry, who thinks well of an ill-natured, churlish 'man, who has to be approached in, the most guarded and cautious way ? Who wishes him for a neighbor, or a partner in business. He keeps all about him in nearly the same state of mind as if they were living next door to a hornet's nest or a rabbid animal. And so to prosperity in business; one gets along no better for getting angry. What if business is perplexing, and everything goes "by contraries!' Will a fit of passion make the wind more propitious, the ground more productive, the market more favor-able? Will a bad temper draw customers, pay notes, and make creditors better natured? If men, animals, or senseless matter cause trouble, will getting "mad" help matters?—make men more subservient, brutes more docile, wood and stone more tractable ? Any angry man adds nothing to the welfare of society. He may do some good, but more hurt. Heated passion makes him a firebrand, and it is a wonder that he does not kindle flames of discord on every hand.
The disadvantages arising from anger, under all circumstances, should prove a panacea for the complaint. In moments of cool reflection, the man who indulges it, views, with deep regret, the desolations produced by a summer storm of passion. Friendship, domestic happiness, self-respect, the esteem of others, and sometimes property, are swept away by a whirlwind; perhaps a tornado of anger. I have more than once seen the furniture of a house in a mass of ruin, the work of an angry moment. I have seen anger make wives unhappy, alienate husbands, spoil children, derange all harmony, and disturb the quiet of a whole neighbor-hood. Anger, like too much wine, hides us from ourselves, but exposes us to others.
Some people seem to live in a perpetual storm; calm weather can never be reckoned upon in their company. Suddenly, when you least expect it, without any adequate reason, and almost without any reason at all, the sky becomes black, and the wind rises, and there is growling thunder and pelting rain. You can hardly tell where the tempest came from. An accident for which no one can be rightly blamed, a misunderstanding which a moment's calm thought would have terminated, a chance word which meant no evil, a trifling difficulty which good sense might have removed at once, a slight disappointment which a cheerful heart would have borne with a smile, brings on earthquakes and hurricanes. What men want of reason for their opinions, they are apt to supply and make up in rage. The most irreconcilable enmities grow from the most intimate friendships. To be angry with a weak man is to prove that you are not very strong yourself. It is much better to reprove than to be angry secretly. Anger, says Pythagoras, begins with folly and ends with repentance.
Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself what you wish to be.
He that is angry with the just reprover kindles the fire of the just avenger. Bad money cannot circulate through the veins and arteries of trade. It is a great pity that bad blood can circulate through the veins and arteries of the human frame. It seems a pity that an angry man, like the bees that leave their stings in the wounds they make, could inflict only a single injury. And, to a certain extent, it is so, for anger has been compared to a ruin, which, in falling upon its victims, breaks itself to pieces. Since, then, anger is useless, disgraceful, without the least apology, and found "only in the bosom of fools," why should it be indulged at all?